Auditor General exposes folly of Green Energy Act

By MPP Toby Barrett

Ontario’s Auditor General has now verified that the McGuinty green energy dream has turned into a nightmare.

As local people continue to sign petitions, attend meetings, and contact their representatives regarding the planned arrival of hundreds of wind turbines, the release of the 2011 Auditor General’s annual report provides a scathing assessment of policies that have rolled out a welcome mat to renewable energy developers.

The findings reiterate what we in Opposition have argued since before the election: Ontario’s green energy plan is a failure with respect to costs, lack of oversight, and unsubstantiated job creation claims.

In 2009, the McGuinty government bulldozed regulatory regimes and plowed ahead, without cost-benefit analysis, allowing the green lobby to restructure Ontario’s electricity sector.

As Opposition Leader Tim Hudak informed the Premier during Question Period, “you created a gold rush that made your friends very rich,” leaving the rest of us out in the cold, paying exorbitant hydro rates, without the ability to have a say in the matter.

When the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was passed in 2009, Mr McGuinty promised modest increases in electricity of about one per cent annually. But, according to the Auditor General, “Electricity prices for the average Ontario consumer …are projected to rise 46 per cent in the next five years.”

The Green Energy Act’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) program, providing renewable-energy generators with attractive contract prices, has ended up costing billions. In fact, we will be paying $4.4 billion more in costs for wind and solar. The cost becomes even more concerning when you consider the auditor’s finding that many of these costly projects were approved without appropriate oversight, including regulatory and planning procedures.

The report also indicates guaranteed FIT contracts for wind mean we’re paying other jurisdictions big bucks to take our power. The Auditor General says between 2005 and 2011, ‘Ontario received $1.8 billion less for its electricity exports than what it … cost electricity ratepayers of Ontario.’ We’ve subsidized Quebec and New York $1.8 billion to take our power.

The high costs might seem more justifiable if there were any credence at all to government job creation claims. But the government’s watchdog says the Opposition was right on this front as well. While Mr. McGuinty claims 50,000 jobs – the auditor points out that facts prove otherwise: “…about 30,000, of these jobs are likely to be short-term construction jobs.”

Auditor General Jim McCarter adds the price of these short term jobs is employment loss in other sectors: “…for each job created through renewable energy generation, two to four jobs are often lost in other sectors as a result of higher electricity prices,” and “The cost for green energy jobs is very expensive. It’s between $100,000 to $300,000 per job.”

The Auditor General was equally critical of the Samsung deal – something we in the Opposition pledged to scrap due to its impact, massive cost and lack of proper process. According to the 2011 report, the deal was done with, “no formal economic analysis … to determine whether the deal was prudent,” and that, “neither the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) nor the OPA was consulted about the agreement.”

More to come!